What Is DDR4 Memory?

What you need to know about this memory type

Double Data Rate 4 Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory became the standard in PCs with the release of the Intel X99 chipset, Haswell-E processors, and 6th-generation Intel Core processors. DDR4 replaced DDR3, which was the standard until around 2014. Here's what you need to know about DDR4 RAM.

Crucial DDR4 Memory

Faster Speeds

Like each iteration in RAM standards, DDR4 arose primarily to address faster processor speeds in computers. DDR3 was around for so long that the speed jumps were larger than the previous bump in RAM. For example, at the time of DDR4's introduction, the fastest JDEC standard DDR3 memory ran at 1600 MHz.

DDR4 memory speeds start at 2133 MHz, a 33 percent speed increase. The JDEC standards for DDR4 also specify up to the 3200 MHz speed, which is double the current DDR3 1600 MHz limit.

DDR3 memory is available at speeds upwards of 3000 MHz. However, this is overclocked memory that runs past the standard and with higher power requirements.

As with other generation jumps, the increased speeds also mean an increase in latencies. Latency refers to the time gap between the memory controller issuing a command and when the memory carries it out. The faster that memory gets, the more cycles it tends to take for the controller to process it.

With higher clock speeds, increased latencies generally don't impact the overall performance because of the increased bandwidth for communicating the data in memory to the CPU.

Lower Power Consumption

The power that computers consume is a major issue, particularly when looking at the mobile computer market. The less power that components consume, the longer a device can run on batteries.

As with each generation of DDR memory, DDR4 reduced the amount of power required to operate. This time, the levels dropped from 1.5 volts to 1.2 volts. This difference may not seem like much, but it can make a big difference with laptop systems.

Can You Upgrade Your PC to DDR4 Memory?

During the transition from DDR2 to DDR3 memory, CPU and chipset architecture was different. This meant that some motherboards from the era could run either DDR2 or DDR3 on the same motherboard. You could get a desktop computer system with the more affordable DDR2 and then upgrade the memory to DDR3 without replacing the motherboard or CPU.

The memory controllers are currently built into the CPU. As a result, there isn't any transition hardware that can use both DDR3 and the new DDR4. If you want a computer that uses DDR4, you must upgrade the entire system — or at least the motherboard, CPU, and memory.

A new DIMM package was designed to ensure that people do not use the DDR4 memory with DDR3-based systems. The new memory package has the same length as the previous DDR3 modules but a higher number of pins. DDR4 uses 288 pins, compared to the previous 240-pins, at least for desktop systems. Laptop computers also face a similar size but with a 260-pin SO-DIMM layout compared to the 204-pin design for DDR3.

In addition to the pin layout, the notch for the modules is in a different position to prevent modules from being installed in the DDR3 designed slots.